There’s nothing like the subtle reminder to never joke about bombs or a carbohydrate-heavy in-flight meal to let you know where you’re off to, writes Anthony Tan in Colorado, on the eve of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:37 PM

The
first reminder that I was going to the United States came a few minutes
before check-in at Sydney airport for Delta Airlines flight DL 16,
destination Los Angeles.

Waiting in line with bags in tow, I had a
chance to look at the screen above me, which said in large block
capitals: "THINK BEFORE YOU SPEAK – DO NOT MAKE JOKES ABOUT BOMBS OR
SECURITY THREATS."

A second reminder came aboard the 14-hour
flight to LAX, where, during the in-flight meal service, my stomach
noticed the serving portions were not just generous but copious – and I
hadn't even asked for an 'upsize' yet!

(That'll come later, I
thought to myself, upon visiting McDonalds/ KFC/ Burger King/ Taco Bell/
Subway, salivating at the prospect of putting on another five kilograms
in addition to the five I'd already put on in July.)

* * *

Frivolities
aside, I'm very much looking forward to sharing my trip Stateside with
you, as I report on location at the inaugural US Pro Cycling Challenge
in Colorado.

The week-long race, scheduled for August 22-28, will
mark the last time Tour de France winner Cadel Evans pins on a number
this year, before his dream season draws to a close.

After his
homecoming party in Melbourne's Fed Square, Evans shot off to the States
to prepare, or more correctly, acclimatise, to the rarefied air he will
find himself in next week. Like the Tour of Qinghai Lake in the
eponymous westernmost province of China, a race I have covered twice
before, the entire race is held at high altitude.

And there has
already been many a cautionary tale for those who come ill-equipped for
such a venture, thinking they can race how they would at sea level, or
that they only need a day or two to adapt. Wrong.

"I think
altitude is really going to play a big part in this race," said Tom
Danielson, a long-time resident of Durango, Colorado, who recently
finished ninth at his first Tour de France and regarded by many as the
race favourite. Upon his 14 August arrival in the States, Evans told
reporters: "What I can do in Colorado will depend on how well I recover
and adapt to altitude."

While the supersized passes to be
traversed are not as steep as those at the Tour, because of the
altitude, Danielson says, whose Garmin-Cervélo team is based in the
athletes' haven of Boulder, riders who get dropped will struggle to
regain contact, as they already will be in oxygen debt.

* * *

The
seven-day, 518-mile (833.6 kilometres) stage race will also be
intriguing because the entire Tour de France podium is here, which means
of course the Schleck bro's, Andy and Fränk, will be in Colorado along
with Cadel.

Will one of them attempt to exact some revenge on
Evans, who outwitted, outplayed, and out-rode them in July, relegating
Andy to his third consecutive second place (the only rider to have done
so in TdF history) and Fränk to third?

I think so. Pride is a noun bike racers know all too well, which can lead to both amazing feats and spectacular downfalls.

"He's a proud guy," Max Testa, BMC Racing's team doctor, told VeloNews. "So he's going to race his best for sure. He doesn't like to race for second, ever."

"I've
done a lot of travel and I have hardly had any training since the
Tour," Evans said. "But I'm not quite as bad as I thought I'd be. We'll
see in the first two or three days in Colorado how good or bad I am."

It's
also interesting that both the Schlecks and Evans decided to forgo
riding the Vuelta a España in favour of this race. As he has shown in
the past, Evans has the physical and mental fortitude to ride two Grand
Tours a year, and with this year's road worlds held on a sprinters'
course and the Giro too difficult to use as a preparation event for the
Tour, until last month, the Vuelta was the likely alternative.

But
as early as the day after the Tour finished on the Champs Elysées on
Sunday 24 July, he decided against it. Yes, America is an important
market for BMC Bicycles and the team is based in Santa Rosa, California.
But if Cadel really wanted to ride the Vuelta, I'm sure he could have
done so; he is the team leader, after all.

"We could go to
the Vuelta, Colorado or Poland," said Evans, "[and] I know which one I
want to do, because I am here and I don't think I am the only one that
feels that way."

As he's already said, planning for the 2012 Tour
has already begun – and so long as he's capable of contending for the
world's greatest bike race, he may as well put all his eggs behind it.
Though I'm sure he'll have a crack at winning the Giro or Vuelta one
day, maybe in 2013 or 2014.

* * *

From the scenes we saw
at May's Tour of California, aside from the Tour de France and the
mountain stages of the Giro (I'll throw Old Willunga Hill in there,
too), nowhere else in the world do you see cycling fans as fervent as
those you see roadside in America.

I know, I know, some (a lot?)
dress up in ridiculously silly outfits and wear reindeer horns and
gridiron outfits and carry on like characters in the parody that was the
film from the makers of 'South Park', Team America.

But in cycling, boisterous, bold and occasionally brash is so much better than bog-standard and boring.

Evans
shares a similar sentiment: "I raced a lot in America as a mountain
biker years ago and I understand the passion there is for cycling here.
Now that there are races emerging like the Tour of California, Tour of
Utah and USA Pro Cycling Challenge, I try and support those races. I
went to the first Tour of California and I'm going to the first Colorado
race."

See you on the start line, then, Cadel.

Editor's note: Anthony Tan will be filing video clips and regular blogs for Cycling Central throughout the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.

Follow Anthony on Twitter: @anthony_tan